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Cancer Linked to Other Chronic Illnesses

People With High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Heart Attack More Likely to Have Cancer

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 2, 2010 -- Having a heart attack or chronic illness may raise the risk of being diagnosed with cancer, according to a new survey.

Researchers found that people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes were about twice as likely to have cancer as healthy people without these chronic illnesses.

In addition, the survey found that people who had suffered a heart attack were nearly three times more likely to have a cancer diagnosis than those who hadn't.

The survey was conducted as part of the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index and based on telephone interviews with more than 350,000 adults in the U.S. conducted between Jan. 2- Dec. 30, 2008, and Jan. 2- Dec. 29, 2009. It has a sampling error of no more than 1 percentage point.

The survey showed the relationship between a cancer diagnosis and the following health conditions:

Health Condition

% Diagnosed With Cancer

High blood pressure

11.8

No high blood pressure

5.0

High cholesterol

11.7

No high cholesterol

5.3

Diabetes

12.7

No diabetes

6.4

Heart attack

18.1

No heart attack

6.5

The risk of developing any of these chronic illnesses increases with advancing age, but researchers say the link between these illnesses and cancer remained significant within every age bracket. The relationship between cancer and some of the conditions, such as heart attack, were especially pronounced under age 45.

Researchers point out that the results do not necessarily mean any of these chronic illnesses cause cancer, but they do show that cancer and chronic conditions share many risk factors and may be interrelated.

For example, smoking cigarettes is a risk factor for both heart attack and lung cancer, and cholesterol itself is not a cancer-causing substance but can enhance the effects of other carcinogens in the body.

SOURCES: Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.

News release, Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.

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